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Baixa Pombalina

A particularly elegant district of Lisbon, the Lower Town was among the world's first earthquake-resistant constructions.

TravelCurious Tip

Head to Tágide near Commerce Square for a outstanding meal with a glorious view across Lisbon’s downtown area from an 18th century townhouse

One of Lisbon’s most elegant districts, Baixa Pombalina was built after the 1755 Lisbon earthquake razed most of the city to the ground. It is named after Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the 1st Marquis of Pombal and Prime Minister of Portugal for twenty seven years, who played a key role in rebuilding the city.


Lesson Learned

The Baixa Pombalina is renowned as one of the first examples of earthquake-resistant urban planning. Not a bad idea, since Lisbon has been hit by a number of severe earthquakes over the centuries. Under the Marquis’s instruction, architectural models were tested by having cohorts of soldiers marching around them to simulate tremors.


Among the innovations introduced were the Pombaline Cage, a symmetrical wood-lattice framework that helps safely distribute the force from tremors through a structure, and walls between terraces that are built higher than the roof timbers, thus reducing the spread of subsequent fires.


A Word of Thanks

Stretching between the Tagus River and Avenida da Liberdade, as well as bordering the Alfama district, the Baixa district is absolutely central to Lisbon life. It is the shopping and banking district of the city, as well as one of its most prized tourist spots.


There are few better places for a walk and a coffee. You can stroll around Commerce Square and Rossio Square, marked by beautiful Rossio Train Station and the Dona Maria II National Theatre, and then pass by Marquis de Pombal Square, for a word of thanks to the man who built this lovely quarter.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Lisbon
Lisbon Cathedral (Sé de Lisboa)
This impressive Roman Catholic cathedral dates from 1147 and has survived a number of earthquakes.
Alfama
Lisbon's labyrinthine oldest district houses a variety of historical churches, fado bars and restaurants.
Commerce Square
This beautiful seafront square was the location of the Royal Ribeira Palace until the 1755 earthquake; it was remodelled as a centre for customs administration.
Rossio Square
One of Lisbon's main squares since the Middle Ages, Rossio was destroyed and reconstructed after the great 1755 earthquake.
Santa Justa Lift
This urban elevator from 1902 connects the lower street of Baixa with Carmo Square.
Igreja do Carmo
The final traces of the medieval Carmo Convent, which was almost entirely destroyed after the 1755 earthquake.

Related Tours

Private Lisbon Full Day Highlights Walking Tour inc skip the line tickets
Explore Portugal’s capital on this full-day Lisbon walking tour, which showcases everything from cathedrals to castles, praças to palaces and monasteries to UNESCO monuments.
 
  • Take in the panoramic views of Lisbon from the Moorish St George’s Castle.
  • Visit key religious sites including the Sé de Lisboa cathedral and the earthquake-ravaged ruins of Carmo Convent.
  • Soak up the atmosphere in the thriving downtown Baixa district and in Lisbon’s most iconic praças: Rossio and Comércio.
  • Learn about Lisbon in the Middle Ages as you wander the steep gothic streets of the Alfama neighbourhood.
  • Explore the bohemian Bairro Alto, Lisbon’s entertainment district with its bars and Fado music.
  • Stop for a traditional Portuguese lunch (not included in price).
  • Head to historic Belém to see its 17th century palace, UNESCO-listed tower and Jerónimos Monastery.
  • Discover cultural treasures at The National Coach Music and Cultural Centre of Belém.
 On this comprehensive, eight-hour walking tour, you’ll explore Lisbon’s most important cultural and historic sites with an expert local guide. Discover everything from Lisbon’s roots as one of Europe’s most important seaports and magnet for world explorers during the Age of Discovery, to how its progressive city grid plan was developed after the horrific earthquake of 1755. Visit religious monuments, trendy cobblestone districts, historic Belem and so much more.  
 
The origins of Lisbon
 
You’ll begin delving into Lisbon’s history, which dates back to 1200 BC, by visiting key landmarks like the 1st century Roman Theatre of Lisboa and 12th century gothic cathedral, Sé de Lisboa, which has withstood the city’s cataclysmic earthquakes. From the Moorish St George’s Castle, you can admire sweeping views over Lisbon and the Tagus River and walk its impressive stone walls, which date back to the 6th century.
 
Travel back to the Middle Ages in the cobblestone streets of the Alfama neighbourhood, where vibrant yellow trams chug up the steep, narrow roads. Once a poor area located outside of Lisbon’s city walls, Alfama is now one of Lisbon’s trendiest districts and you’ll get to explore its colourful shops, buildings and bars whilst learning about the area’s Jewish and Moorish culture.
 
Back in downtown Baixa, you’ll hear about the magnitude nine earthquake which levelled much of Portugal’s capital and killed thousands in 1755. Rossio Square and Commerce Square are the perfect places to appreciate the revolutionary grid-like city plan and earthquake-resistant buildings that were implemented by the Marquis of Pombal after the disaster. The remains of  Convento do Carmo, with its roofless nave, are a reminder of the damage caused by one of the strongest quakes ever recorded.
 
Belém and Lisbon’s Age of Discovery
 
You’ll get the chance to visit Bairro Alto, a bohemian quarter known for its street art, bars and traditional Fado houses before heading to the beautiful Belém municipality. This area is famous for the 17th century Belém Palace, which was home to the Portuguese Monarchy for centuries. Both the Torre de Belém, a 16th-century fortification tower, and grand Jeronimos Monastery are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which you’ll get to admire.
 
Stop by the Discoveries Monument, which celebrates Portugal’s role in the Age of Discovery during the 15th and 16th centuries, then take some time to peruse the world’s largest collection of horse-drawn carriages at the National Coach Museum. Round off the tour with a visit to the Cultural Centre of Belém, the largest museum in Portugal which showcases the country’s cultural and technological achievements. 

Looking for an in-depth tour of Lisbon? Than this full-day highlights tour fits the bill, offering an overview of the city’s most famous sights and historical moments. 
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